Introducing Electrical Engineering to Children with an
Open Workshop Station at a Maker Days for Kids Event
Abstract: The world is changing through the Digitalization trend such as Industry 4.0 where
manufacturing transforms from quantity production to individual production. For enabling this
transition, we need more skilled professionals in STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts,
mathematics) related fields. For this reason, in the last years special STEAM projects have been
introduced inside and outside the school environment to attract more children to these fields. One
of them is the Maker-Days-for-Kids-concept where a temporary Maker Space is created based on
In this publication, we introduce a novel electrical engineering station concept for a temporary
Maker Space for children. The station will contain basic and advanced workshops to introduce
typical tools and methodologies of the electrical engineering domain. Furthermore, we also offer
statistics about the station at the event, challenges the attendees had to struggle with as well as the
lessons we learned during the event. The evaluation will be used to improve the current workshop
concept for future events to increase the interests in electrical engineering.
In the next two decades about 42% of all European STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts,
mathematics) professionals and associate professionals will retire (Ulicna & Royale, 2015, p.11). As a result, a high
replacement demand will arise and these jobs need to be replaced by young engineers. Neglecting this fact can
directly influence the European economy because STEAM skills and jobs are directly connected to the productivity
gained in the high-tech sector (Ulicna & Royale, 2015, p.1). A circumstance that exacerbates this problem is the
current digitalization trend in several branches such as “Industry 4.0” in the industrial production sector (Drath &
Horch, 2014). Industry 4.0 will combine traditional industrial production with Information- and Communication
Technology (ICT) to enable self-organizing production (Bassi, 2017). For this purpose, additional STEAM
experienced workers are necessary to support the development of advanced robotics for automation (Ulicna &
Royale, 2015, p.27). To prevent this case, the European government introduced special school programs to awake
STEAM interests at younger ages.
In the last years, the European government supported about 26 STEAM projects to provide insight in the
field of STEAM to awake interests in these domains. Most of them have their focus on computational thinking and
programming such as the ROBERTA course. This course is designed for introducing robotic programming to girls
in school (European Schoolnet, 2017). Most of these courses are organized as problem-based and project-based
learning environments that uses concepts and methods of the “Making” movement from the maker culture (Schön,
Ebner & Kumar, 2014). Making is a term that describes the creative process of building your own products by using
different tools, components and methods (Hatch, 2014). Hatch describes this process as something fundamental for
human beings to feel ourselves as a whole. For this purpose, he created the Maker movement manifesto with nine
easy terms Make – Share – Give – Learn – Tool Up – Participate – Support – Change (Hatch, 2014, p.1). The roots
of this concept are based on ideas of the first half of the 20th century by progressive educators such as Maria
Montessori, Friedrich Fröbel, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and John Dewey. These raised the idea to use physical
artefacts and tools in education. In the second half of the 20th century Seymour Papert promoted the concept of
Draft - originally published in: Strasser, A., Grandl, M. & Ebner, M. (2019). Introducing Electrical Engineering to Children with an Open
Workshop Station at a Maker Days for Kids Event. In J. Theo Bastiaens (Ed.), Proceedings of EdMedia + Innovate Learning (pp. 790-799).
Amsterdam, Netherlands: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved July 1, 2019 from https://
“learning-by-making” and introduced novel learning concepts such as Lego Mindstorms (Schön, Ebner & Kumar,
2014). To support Makers and bring them together to build on their own projects together, special places have been
built and are called “Maker Spaces”. These spaces provide access to materials, tools and offer support from other
enthusiasts those complete their own projects and to advance their skills.
In the last years, the Maker Education community introduced special programs to introduce Maker Spaces
in schools such as with the MENTOR program in North America. This program design low-cost Maker Spaces for
high schools and there are already more than thousand spaces available (Hackeducation, 2012). Banks-Hunt et al.
are describing their experiences with Maker Spaces in North American High schools and observed that students are
highly motivated and interested in all engineering design activities and that they are requesting for more project
activities (Banks-Hunt, Adams, Ganter & Bohorquez, 2016). This trend of introducing temporary Maker Spaces into
schools is also coming to Europe.
In Europe Schön and Ebner introduced a novel Maker Space concept that is adjusted for children called
“Making with Kids” (Schön & Ebner, 2017). This concept considers the capabilities and needs from a pedagogical
view. In 2015, a temporary Maker Space were created to introduce the Maker concept to children between 10-14
years and allowed them to work on their own projects. This event was so successful that they decided to repeat this
event in 2018. For this reason, we decided to create also workshops for this temporary Maker Space, with a special
focus on electrical engineering.
2. Related Work
Making offers opportunities such as transforming ideas into real products by using common tools. As already
described before, “Making” is about sharing and supporting others. For this reason, Maker Spaces have been
introduced to connect Makers together to share ideas, tools and knowledge as well as to support others during their
projects and to support them to advance their skills. In schools, most of the Maker Spaces are created temporary for
a specific amount of time. The first temporary Maker Space in a school environment were introduced in the 1990s
by using Lego Mindstorms (Lau, Tan, Erwin & Petrovic, 1999).
Lego Mindstorms is a visual programmable robot kit that is designed for children for introducing
programming and computational thinking in younger ages (Lau, Tan, Erwin & Petrovic, 1999). Nowadays,
successor products of the original Lego Mindstorms kit are still used in elementary schools supporting children in
learning specific problems such as basic geometry concepts (Zygouris, Striftou, Dadaliaris, Stamoulis, Xenakis &
Vavougios, 2017). Zygouris et al. (2017) describe that this kit helped to awake interests for geometry in their
classes. Children gained more knowledge about basic geometry concepts and were highly motivated during the
courses. Especially, the instant feedback of the moving robot supported their motivation. But these kits have the
downside that they focus on programming and neglecting electrical engineering disciplines such as soldering or
assembling hardware components together.
The development of electronic hardware components requires different skills such as manual skills or basic
physical knowledge. In the past, there have already been projects that focus on introducing electrical engineering to
K-12 students. Bugallo and Kelly introduced a program that offers an insight to the electrical domain. They offered
workshops to build microphones to introduce analog signal processing, a metal detector for learning about
electromagnetic waves as well as a night-light to give an introduction into basic electronic components such as
resistors. They emphasize that most of the student responses were positive and most of the participants enjoyed
these workshops (Bugalloy & Kelly, 2015).
In the last few years, Europe has started to advance STEAM activities in schools such as the ROBERTA
course (European Schoolnet, 2017). However, most of these projects are temporary courses and permanent Maker
Spaces in schools are still rare. In 2016, Germany had about 107.000 companies related to the Information- and
communications technology (ICT) with a revenue of 343,9 Billion of Euro (Destatis, 2016). Consequently, the ICT
sector is important for the German economy. For this reason, a German school started to install a permanent Maker
Space to awake children’s interest for STEAM (Ebner, Schön, Narr, 2016). In general, Maker Spaces for children
are temporary installed for a specific amount of time such as the “Maker Days for Kids” event in Bad Reichenhall in
2015 (Gappmaier, 2018). This event had the intention to support participants to create their own creative products
and was realized as an open workshop event. The event contained several stations with different topics such as wood
work, programming or electrical assembling. The stations contained typical tools that are well known from other
Maker Spaces such as 3D-Printers, vinyl-cutters or laser cutters but also traditional tools such as drilling or sewing
machines. Children had the opportunity to get in touch with Scratch, a visual programming language that is
construed for rookies, Lego Mindstorms or the Makey-Makey-Kit. This event was one of the first that created a
temporary open workshop Maker Space for children between 10-14 years in Europe and the results showed that this
kind of event is a success towards the engagement of children and that children are open-minded for Making
activities (Schön & Ebner, 2017). For this reason, the organizers decided to repeat this event as a summer-school
program for children at a University.
The new event will was again designed as an open-workshop event with several stations covering different
engineering and handcrafting domains. One of the engineering domains station should cover the electrical
engineering domain. For this reason, we wanted to design an open workshop station that considers the knowledge
heterogeneity of the children as well as introducing basic physical knowledge about the electrical engineering
domain to them. Consequently, we are working on the following research question:
Is it possible to design an open workshop concept that considers knowledge heterogeneity for children between 10-
14 years and to introduce basic physical concepts of the engineering domain to them?
3. Electrical Engineering Course for Kids
The main idea for the open workshop course is to introduce basic electrical engineering skills to a heterogeneity
group of children that are between 10 and 14 years old. Most of them already heard something about the electrical
domain from school in the physic subject and some of them also have experience with basic electrical concepts such
as electric circuit structure through STEAM school programs.
3.1 Initial Situation
The workshop we are designing will be part of a Maker Days event with the focus on children with an age between
10 and 14 years. This event will offer different open workshop stations in a variety of engineering and handcrafting
domains such as programming, 3D printing, stitching or crafting. Children will have the opportunity to choose from
several workshops and are allowed to join and leave whenever they want. Each station will be guided by a
professional of the specific STEAM domain. Dependent on the skills and personal needs of each participant the
professional is able to support or guide through their project. For this reason, we are expecting the challenge of
group heterogeneity because children have different preparatory training and educational background caused by
different school types and age. For this reason, the provided workshops should offer different projects to fit all
possible skill variations to keep the motivation as high as possible.
3.2 Workshops Idea
Developing electronic products is always related to at least three workflow steps Design – Assembling – Testing.
Therefore, we wanted to design several workshops that covers one or more parts of this workflow with the intention
to introduce basic electrical engineering concepts and tools of each workflow step to children. Offering several
workshops also enables the possibility of starting at a basic workshop and advance the electrical engineering
knowledge as much as wanted or allows the participants to skip certain workshops if previous experience is
available. Because of that our workshops should be constructed as bottom-up workshops providing basic electrical
engineering concepts such as assembling basic electrical circuits as well as soldering advanced electrical circuits.
For this reason, we created three different workshops:
• Binary Counter Circuit
The basic workshop is called Vibrobot and is about assembling an electrical toy device (Figure 1), by using basic
electrical components such as terminal strip, battery box, power switch, motor, wires and zip ties. The design steps
for building the device was offered as an exploded assembly drawing. The device can be actuated by a power-on
switch and this is closing the electrical circuit between the battery box and the motor. The motor is holding a wire
that represents an imbalance that enables a moving of the whole device in an unintended way.
Figure 1: Assembled Vibrobot example build by a participant.
For building the Vibrobot children are using common electrical engineering tools such as wire cutter, screwdriver,
multimeter and soldering iron. These tools require and advance manual skills of the children as well as supporting
them to acquire the following skills:
• Understanding abstract exploded assembly drawings and transforming them into manual activities (e.g.
Join motor on a terminal strip with ziptie).
• Identification of tools to achieve certain assembly steps (e.g. Open terminal strip with screwdriver).
• Comprehension of different components and their application (e.g. Ziptie can only be fixed in one
• Conjunction of different electrical components by soldering (e.g. Wire connection to the motor).
• Physical laws of basic circuits (e.g. Electrical circuit needs to be closed from minus to plus pole of battery
for current flow).
• Insight and Troubleshooting of electrical components and circuits with a multimeter (e.g. Power switch pin
layout determination with a continuity tester).
The second workshop is called LED-Roulette and is advancing the manual skills such as soldering that have been
acquired in the first workshop. The participants can build up a roulette game (Figure 2) in this workshop. The circuit
contains several integrated circuits that are covering the logic and the control of the LEDs. The game can be started
by pressing the push-button, this button is closing the electrical circuit and charge a capacitor. This capacitor is used
as an energy source for the remaining circuit. The logic is responsible to actuate the LEDs sequentially until the
energy of the capacitor is gone. The last LED is actuated for several seconds to display the winning spot. In contrast
to the Vibrobot workshop, this workshop introduces additional electronic components such as resistors, capacitors
and diodes as well as the concept of component labelling by colour and numbers.
Figure 2: Soldered LED-Roulette example by a participant.
Assembling this circuit requires the same tools as in the first workshop but the acquired skills changes through the
increasing complexity of the used components:
• Get an insight to the basic physical principles of electronic components (e.g. Diodes conducts current
primarily in one direction).
• Understand the labeling of values on electronic components (e.g. Color pattern of resisotrs).
• Get known the different steps and symbols from the schematic to the printed circuit board (e.g. Different
graphical symbols on the schematic with their meanings).
• Learn about the work flow from individual components to the finished product (e.g. Check each item on the
list of components and find the right place on the PCB).
3.3.3 Binary Counter Circuit
The most advanced workshop is called Binary Counter Circuit and is about designing and assembling a simple
circuit on a bread board (Figure 3). A bread board is often used for prototyping electrical circuits and to verify the
specific requirements of the circuit. The simple circuit represents a binary counter that is counting from 0 to 1024 in
a specific time and displayed at ten LEDs. Most of the logic is done by two Integrated Circuits (IC), one is
responsible for triggering a high-low voltage signal to the counter IC. This trigger increases the internal counter of
the IC and is actuating the specific LED lights depending on the counter. After reaching 1024 the counter is starting
again to count from zero.
Figure 3: Assembled Binary Counter circuit by a participant.
The design of this circuit is connected with reading the specific IC datasheets. Datasheet contains the physical
limitations and specifications as well as functional descriptions of the internal logic. Tools are restrained to a
multimeter and a power supply. Because of building the complete circuit from scratch the participants are able to
acquire several skills such as:
• Reading Datasheets and the interpretation of graphs (e.g. Timing diagram of the binary counter IC).
• Understanding of basic logical gates (e.g. AND gates).
• Structural understanding of breadboards (e.g. Rows are connected together).
• Replication of a schematic onto the breadboard.
• Failure analysis with multimeter (e.g. Find wrong voltage levels).
• Learn how to construct an electronic circuit (e.g. Divide the circuit into subparts with different functions
and pre-process the signals for the next sub circuit).
• Carrying over of breadboard circuit to a permanent circuit on a stripboard.
• Understanding how a computer counts up numbers in binary format.
In this section, we provide insight about lessons learned and common mistakes and problems of the participants as
well as detailed statistical information about the workshops. This is possible through the gapless recording of all
workshop participants during the workshops for each station.
4.1 Participants Maker Days
The Maker Days were hosted for 4 days with about 119 distinct participants.
Figure 4: Gender and Age Distribution of the Maker Days event in Percentage.
About 70% of all participants were male, 34% female and for the remaining share we have no knowledge
about the gender (Figure 4). The age distribution of the participants was quite the same with 21% ten years old, 23%
eleven years old, 25% twelve years old and about 24% were thirteen years old. The remaining percentages cover
participants with higher or lower ages as well as unknown age of the participants. The distribution in age and gender
enables the possibility to evaluate the attractiveness for electrical engineering workshops depending on these
4.2 Participants Electrical Engineering Station
The electrical engineering station that is presented in this publication was visited by 43 children, this is about 36%
of all participants.
Figure 5: Gender and Age Distribution of the Electrical Engineering Station in Percentage.
About 82% of all attendees were male and 16% female (Figure 5). Comparing the distribution between all
Maker Days participants (Figure 4) and the station participants (Figure 5) clearly shows that the females are with
16% underrepresent. To increase the amount of female attendees for future Maker Days the workshop needs to be
adapted to attract more females.
The age distribution of all attendees is uniformly distributed between the age ten and thirteen, just the
twelve-year-old are standing out with 30% (Figure 5). This shows that the station is attractive to each age.
Figure 6: Attendees Distribution of all four days.
The station was offered all 4 days of the Maker Days event and most of the participants were at the first day
of the event. On Monday about 37% of all station attendees visited the station to work on a project. The next days,
the value dropped steadily to 9 attendees. The reason for this outcome could be that many of the event participants
visited more days of the event and that they have attended the workshop once.
In all four days there were about 15 individual workshops that offered one of the three introduced workshops.
Figure 7: Workshop day distribution of the Maker Days.
Most of the workshops were offered on Thursday (Figure 7). The reason for the high increase was that on
the first day, there were just the Vibrobot workshop offered, this workshop is about basic electrical engineering
concepts and offers to build a simple toy with typical electrical components. On the second day, the participants had
the possibility to advance their acquired skills from the first day. The first and the last two days offered the same
amount of workshops but with different projects.
Figure 8: Statistics of the individual workshops with associated attendees.
The Vibrobot workshop was the most successful with 37 attendees and eleven workshops at the whole
Maker Days event (Figure 8). The LED-Roulette project were offered a single time with three attendees. About three
attendees have made the Binary Circuit Counter. The reason for the small amount of advanced workshops was the
small demand for advanced projects from the attendees.
5. Challenges of the Attendees
Almost all attendees were highly motivated and interested in learning about electrical engineering components and
tools. Some of them had previous experience and started with their projects without any fears of contacts. For
attendees that have never made any experience with this field we observed that they feared that they could destroy
something. For children without any experience in soldering electrical components we offered the possibility to get a
demonstration of the process and what they need to consider. During this demonstration, many children started to
repeat the individual steps without watching the further steps.
The biggest challenges for the children during the workshops were wrong dimensioning of hardware
components such as too short wire length, too much or too less soldering tin as well as misaligned hardware
components such as misaligned batteries, wrong direction of the zip tie, wrong component position as well as wrong
tool processing such as sweeping tin onto the soldering iron and then onto the soldering terminal.
Most of the problems were observed during the basic Vibrobot workshop. The reason for this result could
be that there have been too less advanced workshops to get a significant result or that just experienced attendees
attended on advanced workshops and that’s the reason why there have been less problems.
6. Lessons Learned
The designed workshops were tested the first time at a Maker Days event. For this reason, we were able to
determine problems and features that enables the possibility to improve the workshops for further events.
The Vibrobot workshop was the most successful at the Electrical Engineering station and one of the
reasons could be that the exhibited Vibrobot toy attracted children to build one themselves. Furthermore, the
assembling process were easy to understand and just required basic manual skills such as using a screwdriver. For
this reason, most of the children had no problem of understanding and were able to build the toy on their own
without much help of a professional. The provided materials such as wires and terminals had different colours and
most of the attendees picked them consciously to create their individual designed Vibrobot. Some of them even
extended the basic version with additional hardware such as LED lights or handcrafting materials. For these reasons,
most of the Vibrobot were differently to each other.
The biggest problem was the high skill gap between the basic and advanced workshops. The LED-Roulette
workshop was too complex because of the need of studying circuit diagrams as well as the need of learning the
colour and number schematic of the components. The workshop also had the problem to be too time consuming
because of the high number of components to solder. For some attendees the LED-Roulette workshop was
frustrating soldering all the components and in the end the circuit was not working because of wrong placement of
the components or misaligned components. The Binary Counter Circuit also had the problem to be too complex
because of the need of studying datasheets as well as starting to create an electrical circuit from scratch. Most of the
attendees have no knowledge and basic understanding in electrical engineering and therefore they feel overwhelmed.
Therefore, for future Maker Days we need to close this gap by additional workshops as well as improved guidelines
that fit the knowledge and the perception of the children.
Most of the attendees never soldered electrical components and some also never used materials such as zip
ties or terminals before. Therefore, the professionals introduced basic knowledge and manual skills how to use the
materials or how to solder them together and afterwards they had to apply these skills on their own. The
professionals observed that most of the attendees had no trouble to make use of their new acquired skills. The need
of repeating several steps also supported them to advance these skills such as soldering the wires to close the circuit.
Future workshops should consider this fact by focussing on specific manual skills and to repeat these steps
During the workshops we observed that we could keep the motivation high with introducing achievements
during the project. In the Vibrobot workshops we suggested our participants to test the correct function of the motor.
For this purpose, children used alligator clips and a battery box to run the motor. Most of the children were happy
seeing that they succeed. For this reason, future workshops should consider this important fact to keep the
motivation as high as possible.
In this publication we presented an open workshop Electrical Engineering station for a Maker Days event for
children that are between 10 and 14 years old. In Section 2, we gave an overview about the Making community as
well as about the previous initial Maker Days for kids’ event in Bad Reichenhall. In Section 3, we introduced our
novel designed workshop for attracting electrical engineering methods and tools to children. In Section 4, the results
of the Maker Days event for this station are presented. In Section 5, an overview about the challenges children had
to struggle with is provided and in the last Section we gave an insight into the lessons we learned and how we want
to improve the workshops for future events.
Our work clearly shows that it is possible to introduce the electrical engineering domain to children during
an open workshop Maker Days event. During all four days about 43 children visited the station to get in touch with
this engineering domain. Most of them visited the basic Vibrobot workshop but some also participated at the
advanced workshops such as LED-Roulette and Binary Counter Circuit.
The evaluation of Section 4 points out that our designed workshop primary attracted male attendees. For
this reason, we need to advance our workshop to attract more females. This could be accomplished by introducing
workshops that focus on creativity such as LED pictures or by combining traditional handcrafting domains such as
stitching and this station to create LED clothes.
Most important for us were the lessons we learned, because we want to improve our workshop to attract
more children for the electrical engineering domain in future. Electrical engineering is mostly connected to math and
physics but the Vibrobot workshop showed us that it is possible to introduce basic tools such as soldering iron and
knowledge such as closing electrical circuits without any theoretical lesson. Nevertheless, the other workshops were
too overchallenged for most of the participants. For this reason, we need to design advanced workshops with lower
skill steps to keep the motivation during the projects as high as possible and to encourage more children to try out
advanced electrical engineering projects.
Currently, the world is changing through the Digitalization trend and this will increase the demand for
highly skilled STEAM experts in future. For this reason, we need to attract children for the STEAM domain with
projects such as this Electrical Engineering station at the Maker Days event. The sooner we are integrating children
to electrical engineering the better they will understand this domain and probably the higher is the desire to be part
of this domain. Consequently, the demand for these workshops will increase in the next few years.
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